Jozef Gregor Tajovský Theatre, Zvolen, SLOVAKIA
directed by: Peter Palik
The story about two women and one original Šumiac bonnet under a sensitive and playful direction and with captivating harmony between Zvolen theatre’s collective of actors, the narrative transforms into a suggestive and multi-layered artwork.
The story is really quite simple: Katka visits Iľka to learn to sew the bonnet. But in this stage rendition, under a sensitive and playful direction and with captivating harmony between Zvolen theatre’s collective of actors, the narrative transforms into a suggestive and multi-layered artwork. The piece is based on a novel of the same title, poet Katarína Kucbelová’s prosaic debut published in 2019 that earned several nominations and awards, but even more importantly a sizeable readership. And this production by no means lags behind. The autobiographical story of young Katarína, who comes to the central Slovak village of Šumiac to train in the ways of making the original Šumiac bonnet from a village-woman by the name of Iľka, comes alive in a brilliant and visually powerful synthesis of dramatic performance, movement and folklore. The women’s relationship does not only revolve around passing on tradition but especially about the issue of understanding our woman’s identity, our nation’s mentality and our country’s nature. This is no mere shallow confrontation of past and present, the modern and the traditional, the urban and the rural. Above all, this play is about a search for the roots of one’s being, self and the origin of one’s decisions. On the one hand it effects an uneasy realization that certain stereotypes persist in our society, while on the other the liberating awareness that human life is not set in stone and that everyone has a right to freedom and change.
Shortly after its publication in 2019, Katarína Kucbelová’s prosaic debut Bonnet reaped several prestigious literary awards and a mass readership, it was released on audiobook and adapted for theatre in Zvolen. Peter Palik sensed the originality and universal message of Kucbelová’s work even before it was showered in superlatives by literary critics and lay readers alike, and began preparing a rendition for stage shortly after the book came out. In her novel, the author unfolds the subtle autobiographical story of Katarína, who for two years travels to the retired Central Slovak village of Šumiac to learn to make the traditional Šumiac bonnet from one of the last remaining teachers of the craft, Iľka. While at that and as if in passing, she gains knowledge about the slowly depopulating region, vestiges of folk traditions, the locals’ invariable mentality, tense and curious coexistence with the Roma community, as well as the private pitfalls of her kind-hearted tutor. Palik – the adaptation’s author and director – chose the most important narrative and thematic lines and turns from the novel, written in a subjective, report-like spirit and couched in a strongly poetic but often starkly factual language. His richly elaborated production thematises the women’s intersecting memories while portraying in a sober but emotionally suggestive manner the problems of ordinary people in recent Slovak history as well the chaotic present that takes no account of the values of sensitive individuals. For both, sewing becomes a method therapy to approach suppressed or taboo moments in their lives and a way of finding one’s roots. While making the bonnet, Katarína and Iľka circle in associations around the most problematic and painful periods of their remote yet in some respect so similar lives.
Director Palik zooms in on the stereotypes and lack of reflection typical of Slovak nature through a stylistically synthetic combination of drama, physical and visual theatre, incorporating elements of traditional folklore with a clear theatrical vision, as well as through a mosaic of banal and fatal moments in the lives of the two characters. Relying on apparently simple expressive means whose plainness conceals a depth of message and visual appeal, Palik speaks of the complicated inner life of the individual and society. Still, his production transcends the regional quirks of Central Slovakia. The question of searching for inner balance, attaining self-knowledge and finding the fundament of one’s life’s journey gains universal validity.
Besides purposeful and sensitively playful directing and a compact atmosphere that authentically mirrors the unique spirit of Kucbelová’s prose, the Zvolen production also features balanced acting. One might speak of genuinely ensemble–like teamwork, not only of the two protagonists (Tereza Slavkovská as Katarína, Dana Karolová as Iľka) but also of the remaining cast, as no one stands out unduly and the actors submit to the piece’s suggestive atmosphere guided by an associative and fragmentary structure.
directed by: Peter Palik
dramaturgy: Uršuľa Turčanová
set design: Peter Palik
costume design: Viktória Csányiová
projections: Veronika Šmírová
music: Martin Geišberg
musical co-operation: Daniel Špiner
choreography: Libuša Bachratá
cast: Tereza Slavkovská, Dana Karolová, Mária Knoppová, Svetlana Hank Sarvašová, Iveta Marcineková, Ondřej Daniš, Daniel Výrostek, Lucia Letková, Juraj Smutný, Marek Rozkoš, Ján Marcinek
presentation at Divadelná Nitra supported by Slovak Arts Council, Nitra Self-Governing Region, The City of Nitra, SPP Foundation, LITA — authors society
Peter Palik (1979) graduated in environmental education from the Matej Bel University in Banská Bystrica and in puppet theatre directing and dramaturgy from the Theatre Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava. He was dramaturge at the Puppet Theatre Žilina and in-house director at Spiš Theatre. He co-founded Bábková Žilina Puppet Theatre Festival. He has had dramaturgical and directorial engagements in Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, Hungary, and at the Radio and Television of Slovakia. He also creates works for children, having authored over thirty plays and stage adaptations of children’s books. Together with Ján Uličiansky, he published the story book Palette Stories, which earned awards for Most Beautiful Children’s Book of Winter 2008 and Best Children’s Book of Winter 2007. He lectures at the Puppeteering Department of the Theatre Faculty, Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava. He has received a number of prestigious awards in Slovakia and abroad. His productions have been staged at international theatre festivals in China, Russia, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Serbia, Bulgaria and the Ukraine. Since May 2020, he is artistic director at the Jozef Gregor Tajovský Theatre in Zvolen, where he directed a highly rated production of Peter Karvaš’s play Midnight Mass.